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VMFA(AW)-533 began its history on 1 October, 1943. On
this date, Marine Night Fighter Squadron 533 (VMF(N)-533) was commissioned
at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. One of three night fighter squadrons
to be activated in the Marine Corps, the squadron was outfitted with the
Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat, equipped with the APS-6 radar. After a brief carrier
deployment, the squadron moved to Yontan Airfield, Okinawa in May 1945.
Before hostilities ended in the Pacific, 533 would distinguish itself
by claiming the most aerial victories of any night fighter squadron as
well as the first night fighter ace, Capt Robert Baird. In October 1945,
the squadron moved to Peiping, China and soon transitioned to its next
airframe, the Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat. The Hawks soon moved to Hawaii
before finally settling back in the U.S. at Cherry Point in January 1947.
533 would spend the Korean conflict there as well, training Tigercat aircrew
for night combat overseas.
533 entered the jet age in May 1953 with its acquisition
of the F2H-A4 Banshee. They saw several carrier deployments in the ensuing
years, followed by another transition to the F9F Cougar in 1957. Yet another
change was soon to follow as the squadron received the A-4D Skyhawk in
1959, and with it a redesignation to Marine Attack Squadron 533 (VMA-533).
The next change was to come in 1965 when the Hawks received the A-6A Intruder,
giving them an all weather capability and the appropriate change in title,
Soon after transitioning to the A-6, 533 deployed to
Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam to support combat operations. They remained
there from 1967 to 1969, then redeploying to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. All
told, VMA(AW)-533 accumulated over 10,000 combat sorties in these busy
years, garnering them the Commandant’s Aviation Efficiency Trophy.
This would not be the last time that the Hawks would see combat over Southeast
Asia. They returned to service over Vietnam in 1972, deploying for a year
to Nam Phong, Thailand. They were soon flying mission over Cambodia and
Laos, as well. They returned to Iwakuni in August 1973, and then to Cherry
Point in November 1975, where they received their first A-6E the following
In April of 1980, VMA(AW)-533 returned to Iwakuni, becoming
the first all weather attack squadron to participate in the new Unit Deployment
Program (UDP). Throughout the 1980s the squadron deployed, both to Japan
and later for several carrier cruises aboard the USS Saratoga and USS
John F. Kennedy. The last deployment for the Hawks proved to be longer,
as the UDP that began in April 1990 ended and the squadron continued to
Bahrain in December 1990 for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Following participation in those hostilities, VMA(AW)-533 returned home
after an “around the world” deployment that lasted eleven
and a half months.
The Hawks transitioned to the F/A-18D on 1 September
1992, and moved to MCAS Beaufort SC. This made them the first all weather
fighter attack squadron in 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.